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Pokemon Go Maker Niantic Acquires Startup That Develops Multiplayer Augmented Reality Tech

Pokemon Go and games like it may soon allow you to play together with others in augmented reality (AR), if an announcement by the game’s maker Niantic is any indication: Niantic revealed Thursday that it has acquired Escher Reality, a Bay Area-based startup that has developed technology to build advanced AR games and experiences.

Escher Reality’s software essentially allows developers to build AR games that work on both iPhones and Android devices, with the ability to connect multiple devices together so that their users see and interact with the same virtual objects at the same time.  What’s more, Escher even figured out how to build persistent AR worlds, meaning that users can change objects, and then revisit those changes at a later time or leave them for others to discover.

Here’s a video produced by the startup to demonstrate the capabilities of its technology:

“We’re really looking forward to integrating our work on mapping and computer vision technology into Niantic’s amazing content and AR platform,” said Escher Reality CEO Ross Finman and CTO Diana Hu in a blog post Thursday. “The long term vision is to help to bring shared and persistent AR experiences to millions of people around the world, and further realize AR’s impact going forward.”

Escher Reality previously raised $3 million in funding from funders including Uncork Capital, Founders Fund, Y Combinator, Liquid 2 Ventures, Webb Investment Network, iRobot Ventures, Presence Capital and Into Ventures. Niantic didn’t disclose financial details of the transaction, but a spokesperson said that Escher’s entire staff of six is joining the company.

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Niantic now plans to integrate Escher’s technology into its own AR platform, with CEO John Hanke saying that the company is looking to enable third-party developers to build their own Pokemon Go-like AR games and experiences later this year. “The addition of the Escher AR technology is incredibly exciting to us at Niantic as it significantly accelerates our work on persistent, shared AR as part of the Niantic real-world application platform,” he said in a blog post.

Niantic is best known for Pokemon Go, but the company has long been building underlying technology to power other AR games as well. In November, Niantic announced that it is cooperating with Warner Bros. on a Harry Potter-themed AR game called “Wizards Unite.”

A Niantic spokesperson wasn’t ready to share any details on whether Pokemon Go or the Harry Potter game are going to get any multiplayer AR elements thanks to the Escher acquisition, but said that the goal was to support cross-platform persistent AR experiences both for in-house titles as well as apps and games built by third-party developers.

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